Better research is needed to determine why illegal drugs in the U.S. “are just as cheap and available as they have ever been,” says a new report from a National Research Council expert panel. The report said that cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines “continue to cause great harm, particularly in minority communities in big cities. Marijuana “remains a part of adolescent development for about half the country’s young people,” said the panel, headed by University of Maryland criminologist Peter Reuter.
The panel said the largest surveys of drug abuse “miss a large fraction of those with the most serious drug abuse problems.” The federal Arrestee Drug Abuse and Monitoring program (ADAM) was ended in 2003. The effort has been resumed by the White House drug czar’s office but only in 10 cities. The report said “it appears impossible to develop estimates of the quantities used and expenditures on illegal drugs without data” from arrestees. The panel offered five recommendations to bolster research on how drug treatment can affect drug abuse and demand for illegal drugs. “Given the tens of billions of dollars spent annually to address the social harms associated with illegal drug use, policy makers and the public stand to gain significantly with improved data systems and research that will allowt hem to assess the value of those expenditures,” the report said.